Congress has spoken when it comes to next year’s Pentagon budget and the results, if they weren’t so in line with past practices, should astonish us all. The House of Representatives voted to add $37 billion and the Senate $45 billion to the administration’s already humongous request for “national defense,” a staggering figure that includes both the Pentagon budget and work on nuclear weapons at the Department of Energy. If enacted, the Senate’s sum would push spending on the military to at least $850 billion annually, far more — adjusted for inflation — than at the height of the Korean or Vietnam wars or the peak years of the Cold War.
U.S. military spending is, of course, astronomically high — more than that of the next nine countries combined. Here’s the kicker, though: the Pentagon (an institution that has never passed a comprehensive financial audit) doesn’t even ask for all those yearly spending increases in its budget requests to Congress. Instead, the House and Senate continue to give it extra tens of billions of dollars annually. No matter that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has publicly stated the Pentagon has all it needs to “get the capabilities… to support our operational concepts” without such sums.
It would be one thing if such added funding were at least crafted in line with a carefully considered defense strategy. More often than not, though, much of it goes to multibillion dollar weapons projects being built in the districts or states of key lawmakers or for items on Pentagon wish lists (formally known as “unfunded priorities lists”). It’s unclear how such items can be “priorities” when they haven’t even made it into the Pentagon’s already enormous official budget request.
In addition, throwing yet more money at a department incapable of managing its current budget only further strains its ability to meet program goals and delivery dates. In other words, it actually impairs military readiness. Whatever limited fiscal discipline the Pentagon has dissipates further when lawmakers arbitrarily increase its budget, despite rampant mismanagement leading to persistent cost overruns and delivery delays on the military’s most expensive (and sometimes least well-conceived) weapons programs.
In short, parochial concerns and special-interest politics regularly trump anything that might pass as in the national interest, while doing no favors to the safety and security of the United States. In the end, most of those extra funds simply pad the bottom lines of major weapons contractors like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Technologies. They certainly don’t help our servicemembers, as congressional supporters of higher Pentagon budgets routinely claim.
A Captured Congress
The leading advocates of more Pentagon spending, Democrats and Republicans alike, generally act to support major contractors in their jurisdictions. Representative Jared Golden (D-ME), a co-sponsor of the House Armed Services Committee proposal to add $37 billion to the Pentagon budget, typically made sure it included funds for a $2 billion guided-missile destroyer to be built at General Dynamics’ shipyard in Bath, Maine.
Similarly, his co-sponsor, Representative Elaine Luria (D-VA), whose district abuts Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Newport News Shipyard, successfully advocated for the inclusion of ample funding to produce aircraft carriers and attack submarines at that complex. Or consider Representative Mike Rogers (R-AL), the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee and a dogged advocate of annually increasing the Pentagon budget by at least 3% to 5% above inflation. He serves a district south of Huntsville, Alabama, dubbed “rocket city” because it’s the home to so many firms that work on missile defense and related projects.
There are even special congressional caucuses devoted solely to increasing Pentagon spending while fending off challenges to specific weapons systems. These range from the House shipbuilding and F-35 caucuses to the Senate ICBM Coalition. That coalition has been especially effective at keeping spending on a future land-based intercontinental ballistic missile dubbed the Sentinel on track, while defeating efforts to significantly reduce the number of ICBMs in the U.S. arsenal. Such “success” has come thanks to the stalwart support of senators from Montana, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming, all states with ICBM bases or involved in major ICBM development and maintenance.
The jobs card is the strongest tool of influence available to the arms industry in its efforts to keep Congress eternally boosting Pentagon spending, but far from the only one. After all, the industrial part of the military-industrial-congressional complex gave more than $35 million in campaign contributions to members of Congress in 2020, the bulk of it going to those on the armed services and defense appropriations committees who have the most sway over the Pentagon budget and what it will be spent on.
So far, in the 2022 election cycle, weapons firms have already donated $3.4 million to members of the House Armed Services Committee, according to an analysis by Open Secrets.org, an organization that tracks campaign spending and political influence. Weapons-making corporations also currently employ nearly 700 lobbyists, more than one for every member of Congress, while spending additional millions to support industry-friendly think tanks that regularly push higher Pentagon spending and a more hawkish foreign policy.
The arms industry has another lever to pull as well when it comes to the personal finances of lawmakers. There are scant, if any, restrictions against members of Congress owning or trading defense company stocks, even those who sit on influential national-security-related committees. In other words, it’s completely legal for them to marry their personal financial interests to those of defense contractors.
The Cost of Coddling Contractors
Legislators arbitrarily inflate Pentagon spending despite clear evidence of corporate greed and repeated failures when it comes to the development of new weapons systems. Under the circumstances, it should be no surprise that weapons acquisitions are on the Government Accountability Office’s “High Risk List,” given their enduring vulnerability to waste and mismanagement. In fact, overfunding an already struggling department only contributes to the development of shoddy products. It allows the Pentagon to fund programs before they’ve been thoroughly tested and evaluated.
Far from strengthening national defense, such lawmakers only reinforce the unbridled greed of weapons cont
Article from LewRockwell